Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Montmartre Mysteries

Today we're featuring an excerpt from a new book from the Wine Maker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noll Balen. First a little bit about the book:

Wine expert Benjamin Cooker travels to the French capital, where his is called to help care for some vineyards in Montmartre, a neighborhood full of memories for him. He stops in on an old friend. Arthur Solacroup left the Foreign Legion to open a wine shop good enough to be in the Cooker Guide. But an attempted murder brings the past back into the present. But which past? The winemaker detective and his assistant Virgile want to know more, and their investigation leads them from the sands of Djibouti to the vineyards of CÙte du RhÙne.

Alaux-BalenHere's a little bit about the authors and since the originally wrote the book in french, a bit about their translator.

Jean-Pierre Alaux and NoÎl Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Ch‚teau Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.

The book was translated into English by Sally Pane who studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.

Here's an excerpt from the Montmartre Mysteries:
The snow was falling more heavily now, making the city look immaculate, and the municipal employee appeared ready to beat a hasty retreat to the gatehouse. Benjamin spotted a couple of tourists gazing at the vines. 
“Sir, could we take a closer look?” one of them yelled to the worker. 
“Impossible,” the man said. “It’s forbidden.” “Really? Why’s that?” 
Benjamin walked over to the couple, whose accent gave them away as Americans. 
“I’m afraid this is a protected space,” Benjamin said. 
“Even Parisians aren’t allowed in. They have access to the vineyard only once a year, during Heritage Days.” 
“So you’re familiar with this little plot,” the second tourist said. “Tell me, is the wine worth drinking?” 
“Let me assure you, it’s every bit as good as California wines,” Benjamin responded, giving the tourists a nod and walking away. He felt a bit mischievous. California made some of the finest wines in the world, while Montmartre produced only a red that was decent at best, but it was the French capital’s only wine, and that counted for something.Benjamin checked his watch and found that he still had a little time before his meeting with the director of Bretonneau Hospital. He could fit in a visit to the Calvaire Cemetery, which was nestled against Saint Pierre Church. It was said to be the smallest cemetery in Paris. Or perhaps he would climb the Rue Lepic. 
At that moment, his cell phone vibrated. Virgile had just come out of the Montparnasse train station. Later in the day, they would be attending a Vouvray tasting Benjamin was hosting. Virgile’s southwestern French accent had an agreeable ring.  
“Geez, boss, you could have warned me that it was snowing in Paris. I would have brought my moon boots.” 
They arranged to meet in a few hours at the Hôtel de Crillon. Benjamin would leave him to his own devices until then. 
“Have a light lunch. Nothing too spicy or overly seasoned,” Benjamin cautioned. “And that, young man, should apply to other areas of your life, as well.”Benjamin smiled as he ended the call. He strolled along the uneven cobblestones of the Rue Lepic and thought of Elisabeth. How fortunate he was to have her as his wife, instead of Sheila. 
“Yes, I’ll bring Elisabeth here to Montmartre in May,” he said to himself. “We’ll have a nice spring weekend in Paris with no cell phones or other interruptions.”The clatter of broken glass jerked him out of his daydream. He had almost reached number 25, a wine shop called Le Chai de la Vigne-Rhône, in homage to Rhone Valley wines, and owned by his friend Arthur Solacroup. 
Benjamin saw a man in a ski mask emerge from the shop, look left and right, and hurry away from the store. 
Benjamin’s warning antenna went up. It was snowing, but it wasn’t cold enough to wear a ski mask. Benjamin followed the man with his eyes, trying to pick up any identifying details. All he could see was a navy blue jacket, fatigues, and heavy shoes that looked like combat boots. 
Benjamin hurried through the door, aware that a young man in a hoodie was right behind him.On the floor, with a terrified look on his face, quivering lips, and bloody left arm, the wine merchant was begging for help in a jumble of shattered bottles.On any other day, Benjamin Cooker would have recognized the characteristic aroma of syrah, the excellent grape varietal of Rhône Valley wines. He would have identified the notes of blackberry, cassis, and black olive. But now something more powerful was assaulting his nose. It was the sulfur-tinged smell of burned gunpowder.
You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

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Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 5 participants will each win a copy of this book. Print/digital format for US residents Digital for all other residents



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  1. thanks for featuring Montmartre Mysteries. Emma at FBT

  2. This series sounds great. Wine AND mysteries, a great pairing.